April 1, 2010

Spring Decorating

Posted in Cleaning, Home, Women tagged , , , at 6:54 am by Liliana

Decorate with nature

Decorate with nature

Spring is here in earnest and I am looking around my tired, dusty house and wondering how to improve the look of different rooms. Cleaning, dusting and washing of fabrics will be coming soon, but after that I would like to give my living space a fresher look. I have always been in the habit of reusing  items that I already have, moving them from room to room, and giving them unexpected purposes. It’s amazing how much difference this can make. The green rug that got tiring in the breakfast room makes my bedroom look very springy.

Here are a few ideas you might want to try:

  • Books are my best friends – when it comes to reading as well as decorating. They make any room look warm and interesting.  A stack of nature books on a table near your plants makes for a beautiful still life.
  • Reuse an old wire wine rack by making it a place for rolled towels in the bathroom. If you choose towels with lovely patterns and colors, you have an interesting decoration.
  • Tie window curtains with scarves or ribbons – this will add color and unexpected charm to your windows.
  • By placing the window treatments as high above the window level as you can, your room will seem taller than it actually is.
  • If you like jewelry, decorate your walls with it. Use old  frames or shadow boxes to group interesting items and your jewelry will look like pieces of modern sculpture.
  • Hang a cork-board on your kitchen wall and fill it with pages from favorite magazines, postcards, children’s artwork, or with pressed flowers.
  • Keep old, mismatched glassware  and use as beautiful vases. Group unusual pieces together for an original look.
  • Add elegance to your meals by covering your table with a table runner, pretty fabric scraps, old window curtains, or a beautiful scarf.
  • I love to decorate with natural accents I collect during my walks or from my yard.  Consider filling those mismatched glasses with bunches of wild flowers or fill bowls with rocks and shells. Twigs look great in tall vases or colorful bottles.
  • Arrange your furniture away from the wall and into conversational groupings. This will make the room look warmer and more pleasant – both you and your guests will be happy to linger.

Please email me with your own suggestions. I would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful spring!

March 27, 2010

Make Your Bathroom Green

Posted in Cleaning, Health, Home tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:35 am by Liliana

Green Bathroom

Green Bathroom

Try a few simple and easy tips and change your own habits and the habits of your family. Small efforts add up to make a big difference.

  • Tub – Use this green, home-made cleaning product, instead of toxic chemicals: 1 teaspoon of liquid soap and a few drops of antibacterial essential oil to one cup of baking soda. Add enough water to form a paste; use with a sponge or brush to scour bathtub surfaces.
  • Toilet – widely used in many countries, a dual-flush toilet greatly cuts on water use. Most American models consume 3.5 – 7 gallons of water for every flush. Double-flush versions use 0.8 – 0.9 gallons ( for fluids) or 1.25 – 1.6 gallons (for solids).
  • Towels – Most towels are made out of conventional cotton. Cotton is a crop that uses more than 25 % of world’s insecticides and some of the most hazardous chemicals. Think of using organic cotton and bamboo towels that have been made with plant-based dyes.
  • Shower Curtains – Most shower curtains are made from polyvinyl-chloride or PVC. This is a kind of plastic that releases hormone-disrupting carcinogens into the air. Look for non-vinyl curtains instead.
  • Paper – If every family in US replaced a roll of ordinary toilet paper with one of 100 % recycled paper, we would collectively save 423,900 trees in one year.
  • Faucet – Turning water on for two minutes while brushing teeth wastes more than 2 gallons of water a year in the US. Remind yourself and your family members to turn water off.
  • Flooring –  Vinyl is frequently mistaken for linoleum, but it is not the same product. Real linoleum has been made from abundant natural materials (ex. linseed oil, pine resin, and powdered cork) since the nineteenth century.
  • Reusable Items – Keep your bathroom counter organized by placing bathroom items in glass jars of different sizes.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo fiber items (furniture, flooring and fabrics) are rated high in sustainability because bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on the planet.

Please send us your own ideas for keeping your house green!

March 26, 2010

Family Life

Posted in Children, Cleaning, Family, Home, Pets tagged , , at 7:05 am by Liliana

Joe, Branka, Jeff, Liliana - 1982

Joe, Branka, Jeff, Liliana - 1982

My sister and I are married to two brothers.

Jeff and I met first. I was in graduate school in St. Louis, his hometown, and one of my roommates introduced us. We were married a year later. His younger brother, Joe, was the best man at our wedding. My younger sister, Branka, was the maid of honor. The younger siblings danced at the wedding and seemed to like each other, but they were both in college and in other relationships. Three years later Branka (then a high school teacher) spent her summer vacation with us. She and Joe (a public radio DJ at the time) went to movies, jazz concerts and walks by the Mississippi River. By August, they were engaged.

Over the years, we have mostly lived in close proximity to each other. Our Siberian Huskies (Bella and Silver) were sisters. Our children are close in age and devoted to each other. Nena and Sasha attend the same college. Nicole and Sam share teenage angst and have double dates. Mike teases them all indiscriminately.

Now that Joe will be losing his job in May, the closeness of our families will be tested even more. Joe has decided to go back to school, get his MA and become a high school English and French teacher. To make this plan possible, they have chosen to rent out their house, and move in with us. Our house is fairly spacious, but we’ll have to organize the space carefully, so that everyone has the privacy they need.

For the last month we have been preparing Joe and Branka’s house for renters. Everyone has been doing their part: painting, cleaning, moving furniture, fixing things that were broken, preparing food for the workers, etc. Sasha and Nicole have expressed sadness about leaving their childhood home, but really, for the most part all of us have been upbeat. We are excited about Joe going back to school and doing what he loves. We are happy that we have each other to help now that the need has arisen. It won’t be easy, we all know that. Some of us are very private, some very extroverted, but we are all willing to find a balance and make it work.

You might remember my sister’s dining room table. Well, it is now in my dining room and will stay there until Joe and Branka are ready to move to another place. No one thought for a second that the table could be left behind. We took our set to the basement and my sister’s Amish table and chairs are again the hearth of our family get-togethers.

March 22, 2010

Appliance Maintenance Advice – from RepairClinic.com

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, RepairClinic.com tagged , , at 6:54 am by Liliana

Appliance Maintenance Advice

Appliance Maintenance Advice

We all have stories. A few years ago, our washing machine hose ruptured. Water leaked throughout the night and in the morning we discovered a deluge in our basement. Another time, when the kids were very young and we felt overwhelmed, our dryer stopped working. We called the repairman only to discover that we had completely forgotten that the filter needs to be cleaned. Cleaned frequently.

Well, many of these appliance problems can be avoided if you follow some basic procedures and maintenance routines. Here are a few suggestions from the experts at RepairClinic.com:

  1. Keep your appliances clean – Some can be cleaned with general household cleaners, but many require specialized cleaners.  For example, to remove a moldy smell from your front-loading washer, try a product called Affresh. Just run it through the wash cycle and your machine will smell fresh and clean.  Smooth cooktops on ranges must be cleaned with a special cleaner. If you use an abrasive chemical, not designed for cooktops, you could easily ruin the glass surface.
  2. Change the filters – If your appliance has a filter, it needs to be cleaned or changed on a regular basis. This is true for the filter on your refrigerator water dispenser; your microwave filter; and, the lint filter on your dryer.  Don’t wait for something to go wrong. Be proactive.
  3. Don’t forget to remove the mold, rust, lime, etc. – Prevent buildup in your dishwasher, which can eventually lead to a loss in power, water pressure, or clogged hoses or tubes. Any time you have lime deposits or mold buildup, your appliance is either not going to run efficiently or is going to smell badly, or both.  Keep it clean!
  4. Check your hoses – Check periodically to make sure that the hoses and connections on your appliances are tight and secure.  You don’t want them to pop apart when you least expect it and cause a flood in your house.
  5. Don’t slam the doors – If you slam the door on your microwave, eventually the catch on the door will fail to latch.  If you slam the door on your refrigerator, the hinges may become weak or misaligned over time. This can result in a door that refuses to close.
  6. Buy a surge suppressor – Be safe and keep power surges or lightning from damaging your appliances.  Your local hardware store should have surge suppressors for all major appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers and dryers.  The last thing you need is to replace an expensive circuit board because of a voltage spike or thunderstorm activity.
  7. Follow directions – It is important to read the owner’s manual and follow directions. For example, many manufacturers recommend that you use a specific type of detergent. This is especially important with front loading washing machines.  They require a special HE-type detergent. This detergent doesn’t foam up as much, which is necessary for proper cleaning action.

You will greatly extend the life of your household appliances if you take good care of them. It is easy to do!

March 15, 2010

Dishwasher Advice from RepairClinic.com

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, Home, RepairClinic.com tagged , , at 7:24 am by Liliana

Dishwasher Advice from RepairClinic.com

Dishwasher Advice from RepairClinic.com

Follow these steps to spruce up your dishwasher this March and make your dishes sparkle:

  • If your dishes are not getting as spotlessly clean as they should be, there is probably not enough water getting into the machine. This is usually caused by a broken or worn water inlet valve. These valves, located behind the lower kick panel, need replacing every 3-7 years, depending on water conditions in your area. Most appliance owners can make this simple repair. It requires a few common tools such as an adjustable wrench, a Phillips head screwdriver, and adjustable pliers. To find the right water inlet valve for your dishwasher, visit RepairClinic.com.
  • Inspect and clean your dishwasher. You do not need to clean the interior of your machine if you use it regularly. If you do not use it for a week or more and your machine begins to have an odor, you can clean it with Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner and Deodorizer.
  • Repair broken and rusted dishwasher racks. If the plastic coating is wearing off, the dish rack tines will corrode and rust. The rust particles could get into the pump and cause more serious problems. Prior to making the repair, be sure to clean the rusted spots on the dishwasher rack with household sandpaper – this will make the repair last much longer. If the rust spots are on the cross-members of the racks, you can use this paint-on coating.
  • Clean the filter. On many basic and/or European dishwashers, there’s a filter near the bottom, or under the lower spray arm, that needs regular cleaning. If your machine has this sort of filter, consult your owner’s manual for how to remove and clean it. If the filter is damaged, replace it to protect the dishwasher’s pump and motor seals.
  • Clean the spray arms. Over time, small holes in the spray arms of your machine may become clogged with leftover particles. Take a moment to clean them out to ensure the best performance from your dishwasher. And, if you find glass in the spray arm, there are probably glass pieces in the pump housing as well. You may want to disassemble the pump to check and clean it as well. Also, the glass may have damaged the motor spin seal. If this has happened, you will often see a water leak at the main pump motor and the motor spin seal should be replaced.

Make your dishes spotless and beautiful this spring!

March 11, 2010

Make Your Kitchen Green

Posted in Cleaning, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , at 8:54 am by Liliana

Make your Kitchen Green

Make Your Kitchen Green

Simple and easy steps add up to make a big difference in sustaining our resources. Here are a few things you can do to make your kitchen green.

  • Choose your cookware carefully – this is important for taste and safety. Quality of the pots makes a difference, as does their care, and choosing the right pot for the right cooking job. A cast iron skillet might be perfect for browning  meat or chicken, but is not the best to use when cooking acidic foods.
  • Use natural cleaning ingredients  – salt is excellent for cleaning pots and pans. To clean burned saucepans, fill the pan with water, add baking soda, let it soak overnight, then bring to a boil the next day. You pots will be sparkly.
  • Use convection oven – these ovens reduce cooking time and use less energy by continually circulating the heated air.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper – Americans use 2,200 paper napkins a year per person – on the average. None of these napkins are recycled!
  • Use glass containers – plastic often breaks down when heated and leaches various toxic chemicals into food. Use glass containers to store leftovers or food such as beans and rice.
  • Energy efficient dishwashers save more water than hand washing – run a dishwasher with a  full load, but don’t overloaded your machine. Air dry your dishes.
  • Use reusable bags when shopping – and you will help cut down on plastic usage.
  • Don’t buy water in bottles – drink faucet water instead. Municipalities must comply with strict government standards from the EPA for water purity, so they have to keep high water standards. Water bottling companies are regulated by the FDA with fewer restrictions, so their standards are usually lower.

RepairClinic encourages and supports steps to green living.

March 8, 2010

Advice for Your Range from RepairClinic.com

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , , at 8:16 am by Liliana

Spruce up your stove!

Spruce up your stove!

Follow these steps to spruce up your stove this March and make it sparkle:

  • Remove range knobs and clean with a non-abrasive cleaner. Replace any broken, or outdated knobs to make your range look fresh and clean.
  • Most ovens have an interior light but the light bulb might have burned out long ago. The light bulb is usually behind a small glass dome, on the upper left or upper right side of the oven. Remove the glass dome, usually by sliding a wire off of it, or rotating it counter clockwise. You can find both common light bulbs and harder to find ones on RepairClinic.com.
  • If your oven broiler pan is missing, or has gotten so old that you can’t clean it anymore, replace it with this high-quality, low-priced unit.
  • Clean your oven control panel. You can clean any porcelain or glass panel with a non-abrasive cleanser or glass cleaner. RepairClinic recommends Appliance Polish & Cleaner for safe cleaning.
  • Drip pans and bowls serve multiple functions, from catching spills, to radiating heat back at your cooking pan for better efficiency. They also protect the user from accidentally touching internal components. It’s important never to cover drip pans with aluminum foil.  Many electric ranges have a tendency to short out due to the fact that aluminum could make a short circuit at the burner. The foil will also cover the oven vent usually found at one of the burners. Try to clean the drip pans with a household non-abrasive cleanser. Or, you can replace them with either universal pans and bowls, or model number original units.

Your oven will look beautiful this Spring!

February 25, 2010

Weekly Housecleaning Chores

Posted in Cleaning, Family, Home tagged , , at 8:08 am by Liliana

Keep your life pleasant and well ordered

Keep your life pleasant and well ordered

This is a list of recommended weekly chores – to keep your life pleasant and well ordered. I don’t follow this list obsessively, but try to stay as close to it as my household regimen requires.

  • Change the bed linens and bathroom towels
  • Vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture and lampshades
  • Wash wood and tile floors
  • Dust surfaces and objects, including pictures, mirrors, light fixtures, and light bulbs
  • Wipe fingerprints or smears from doorknobs, woodwork, telephones, computer keyboards
  • Wash down entire bathroom: toilet, sink, tub, wall tiles, toothbrush holders and fixture
  • Clean entire kitchen: clean refrigerator; wipe down stove and other appliances; clean sinks, counters and tabletops; wash backsplashes

Enjoy your clean and organized  house!

February 16, 2010

Safe Refrigerator Storage

Posted in Cleaning, Food, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , at 8:10 am by Liliana

Safe Refrigerator Storage

Safe Refrigerator Storage

• Do not overload your refrigerator – a crowded refrigerator cannot keep foods cool enough.

• Stack your refrigerator in an orderly fashion – it is safer and more efficient as well as more pleasant.

• Rotate foods so that you use the older items first – when you buy new groceries, place them behind the older ones.

• Be familiar with how long foods last – throw away items that have been stored for longer than recommended time periods.

• Go through bags and discard pieces that are molding or going bad – one rotten apple can spoil the whole bag!

• Make sure that bacteria laden drips from meat and chicken don’t contaminate other food, especially fruits and vegetables that will be eaten without cooking.

• Always keep milk and dairy products in tightly closed, lidded or covered containers.

• Avoid refrigerator odors  – clear all old, rotting, spoiled or molding foods.

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